Exploring the Influences of Blues Music in Guthrie’s “Blues for an Ala”


The ongoing pandemic has allowed us to reflect on the importance of our friendships and to vow never again to take them for granted. Pearl Cleage’s play “Blues for an Alabama Sky” is a moving tribute to friendship, and serves as a reminder of how we must strive to fulfil our dreams and remain secure during trying times. The Guthrie Theatre’s exemplary performance of this drama brings together remarkable playwriting and exceptional acting.

This production was an impeccably well executed piece of theatre, featuring five characters painted in vivid colors and depicted in an arresting and believable manner. It tells the story of four complex African-American residents of Harlem, who are striving to improve their lives amid the vibrant social scene full of music, literature and activism. The audience is drawn into the action for two hours and minutes, as we witness the dreams of our protagonists become the cause for both collaboration and conflict. Three of these four central characters are neighbors in a New York apartment building. Angel is a nightclub entertainer with __________.

Angel possesses a proclivity for irritation and alcohol consumption, as well as an unhealthy dependence on security. Guy, an outspokenly homosexual man attempting to become a costume designer, is the central pillar of Angel’s assistance system. Meanwhile, Delia, a social worker striving to open a family planning clinic, draws upon Sam, a medic employed at a Harlem medical institution. Leland, a newly arrived Southerner, is presented to Angel as a way to attain steadiness; although their discrepant life circumstances make them dubious partners. Despite such potential impediments, Cleage has fashioned an intricate narrative that vibrates with intensity.

Transporting audiences to an exciting yet ambiguous period in American history, when the mass movement of African-American Southerners to the North resulted in Harlem, New York, becoming a renowned regional cultural center. The individuals of “Blues for an Alabama Sky”, despite the growing monetary difficulties due to the Great Depression, realize it as a place of liberation, encountering people like poet Langston Hughes and Reverend Adam Clayton Powell. Serving as an idol is cabaret performer Josephine Baker. Our narrative focuses primarily on Angel.

She delivers a powerful performance that radiates with an energy as vivid as the neon glow of a nightclub, yet also cultivates an atmosphere in which her scarred soul penetrates through. The only one who can compete with her is Lamar Jefferson’s Guy, who portrays a figure of both warmth and wit, strength and honesty. Jefferson infuses him with not only vulnerability, but also with a serene dignity. Brittany Bellizeare, as the gentle yet resilient Delia, and Stephen Conrad Moore, as the diplomatic doctor Sam, round out the quartet, each offering the ideal elements to form a realistic camaraderie between these four friends. Darius Jordan Lee completes the ensemble.

Lawrence E. Moten III’s set provides an exquisite blend of presentation and suggestion for the complex apartments and streetscapes that host this production. Sarita Fellows’ costumes display a remarkable attention to detail, with an added flamboyance that brings the play to life. These elements duly contribute to the immersive quality of “Blues for an Alabama Sky,” a piece that renders the reality of the situation all too palpable. Those interested in contacting Rob Hubbard can do so via email at wordhub@yahoo.com.

“BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY”: Through March at the Guthrie Theater, Second St. S., Minneapolis. Tickets range from $-$.


Overall, the cast members of Blue Door embody the characters with candor and dignity that is rarely seen in this genre. Each actor enriches the production with their distinct personalities, allowing them to blur the lines between drama and comedy as they explore a range of human emotions from fear and uncertainty to joy and contentment. Their performances allow us to look behind their characters’ artificial facades, revealing glimpses of their authentic selves. Blue Door is an intimate portrayal of the strength of friendship to overcome life’s most difficult circumstances.


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